Related Posts with Thumbnails

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Allure of Celadon

Since forever I have loved celadon ware. It is a type of pottery that has been produced in China since AD25. In almost every other type of pottery, crazing (the phenomenon where the glaze is cracked) is considered a defect, celadon pieces are prized for their crackle glazing. If you examine each piece carefully, you will see a network of fine cracks in the glaze.

What is glaze? It is that shiny green layer that coats the whole piece of pottery.

There are many styles to celadon pottery. The more antiquated style sports large angular dark cracks. This is my favourite style of celadon. See below.

The antique style of celadon. It is hard to find these on the market these days. They do not seem popular. I got this one for SGD$30 at a pasar malam.

The celadon at Chiangmai is the more modern style with fine, white crackle glaze. The Chiangmai style is interesting in that the pieces are carved/etched before the first firing. After the glaze is applied and the pieces re-fired in the kiln, the designs look like they are floating at some depth inside the surface.

For decades, all I could do with celadon was to stare at museum displays and through shop windows. I could not afford them. They were so fine and so expensive. Celadon is strangely captivating, and not least because people have found beauty in its brokenness. Cracks in the glaze are not flaws in celadon (though they are in other types of pottery). It is a little like being a Christian don't you think? God finds beauty in us when we are broken and then made whole by Him. Celadon pieces are broken and whole at the same time.  

In the past 10 years, PRC vendors would set up shop at pasar malams to sell workshop rejects from factories in China. I would scour every pasar malam for celadon pieces. A few years ago, they were easy to find and cost less than $100. These days, the vendors ask SGD$200 a piece, even flawed. I did buy 1 lovely piece a few years back with a small defect for $30. I also bought a Jing De Zhen piece with a tiny defect for less than SGD$50.

I did not know that Chiangmai is the celadon capital of Thailand. When I found out in the taxi on the way to the hotel, celadon ware was all I wanted to see. We passed by jewelry shops, umbrella shops, silverware shops, bronzeware shops. I had only a single obsession - celadon. I asked to go to Chiangmai Celadon. The hotel arranged with the taxi to send us to Baan Celadon. I guess they think that tourists do not know better. I was quite offended to find that they had brought me someplace I did not want to go, in the hope that I would like their choice better than my own.

I threw a hissy fit.

Then, I phoned Chiangmai Celadon HERE. They sent a car to pick us up from the hotel. We agreed to a day tour comprising a tour of the factory (with very in-depth explanations of process) and a pottery workshop (throwing clay on wheel, painting and etching). I took videos and will upload on Youtube and blog again.

Celadon tea set.

This piece has been etched and fired once.

Glaze is applied after the first firing in the kiln.

The grey portions of the elephants have a layer of dried on glaze. The pink parts will be painted.

Here is what a painted piece looks like. This is before the 2nd firing.

After the 2nd firing, the gray glaze layer turns into a very zen pale green with a characteristic crackling.

After the 2nd firing, the painted colours become more vibrant. The gray glaze takes on a shine and its characteristic crackling. This piece is a stunning SGD$10,000. The painted layer actually looks like cloth. The entire elephant is bursting with energy and motion. If I could afford it, I would have bought this piece.

These are the 3 elephants we painted at the pottery workshop.

This is the piece I walked out of there with.

No comments: